I recently ran across an article describing Cascadia, which is described as a bio-region that includes parts of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Proponents of Cascadia say that the region is defined by geography, climate, economic ties and culture, more than by the international border that bisects it. I do not live in the region and do not know how seriously residents take the idea, but as a concept Cascadia reminds us that national identities are not the only factors that affect ministry in North America.
In the Christian Reformed Church we spend a lot of time thinking about ministry in our national contexts (at least we do in Canada). In a recent Christian Courier interview Darren Roorda, the Canadian Ministries Director said, “any American who has spent significant time in Canada will realize that, in spite of the heavy American influence through media and entertainment, to be Canadian is still very different from being American.” I agree. I have experienced that both as a Canadian living in the US, and again as a Canadian who returned from the US. But I have also had something like that experience when moving from the US Midwest to the Canadian Maritimes and again from the Maritimes to Central Canada. So while I welcome the hope for greater independence for the Christian Reformed Church in Canada, I also believe there are other distinctions we need to pay attention to, distinctions that do not pay attention to borders.
The Christmas tree Nova Scotia sends to Boston every year is a reminder that there are historic ties between the Canadian Maritimes and US Atlantic seaboard. Churches in Cascadia minister in a context that is different from the center of the continent. A Willow Creek model CRC in Ontario has more in common with a suburban US congregation than it does with the CRC 20 minutes down the road. And deacons in rural Iowa face different challenges than those faced by their urban counterparts.
I think this suggests that we need greater freedom to adapt strategies to cultural microclimates, within our national and bi-national contexts. Perhaps the new day in Canadian ministries can provide a model for this freedom.